C-stores rebound with rise in fuel traffic and “pump to store” conversions
Rajeev-sharma-1
Rajeev Sharma
June 2, 2021

C-stores rebound with rise in fuel traffic and “pump to store” conversions

Coming out of Memorial Day weekend, one thing is clear, Americans are “on the road again”! AAA estimated that 37 million of us traveled more than 50 miles over the Memorial Day weekend, a 60% increase from last year.

This of course translates to more visits to the gas pump. But did that lead to corresponding bump in in-store sales? Last year we reported a very significant drop in the “pump to store” conversion rate, as much as 30% for those who pay at the pump. In fact, 75% of all fuel buyers drove away without making any in-store purchase, adding to the significant financial challenges to the c-store industry.

However, the first quarter of 2021 was already showing encouraging trends in conversion rates. The pump-to-store conversion was up by 12.5% for those who pay at the pump. This helped in fuel buyers making up an important contribution of 32% to all in-store sales. Overall “store traffic to buyer” conversion rate was also significantly higher in March vs a year ago (64% vs 59%).

The improved conversion rates are critical for the c-store industry since the overall in-store traffic is still down 14% compared to the seasonally adjusted pre-pandemic levels. But as another sign of return to normal, the “time-of-day” traffic patterns are shifting with an increase store traffic in the peak period of 1pm to 5pm.

The c-store channel continues to appeal to men more than women. In the first quarter of 2021, 74% of c-store visitors were men, even higher than the 2020 full year average of 71%.

Shoppers spent 13.6% more time in the store in Q1 compared to 2020, perhaps indicating diminishing fear from the pandemic. More importantly, the additional time resulted in more sales. On average c-store shoppers bought more items (2.6 vs 2.4) and spent more ($9.33 vs $7.69) in first quarter vs the same time in 2019.

Emerging categories like Hard Seltzers and CBD helped in increasing the average basket size, with a solid contribution from Beer and Snacks. In Q1, lottery and candy sales were also up significantly.

As we approach summer, it will be important to track ongoing shifts in shopping and buying patterns – that are changing the c-store “heat maps”. Adapting marketing and merchandising strategies to the “post pandemic” shopper would be a key to attracting and retaining their interest in the channel.

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Contact solutions@videomining.com for learning how to access the latest shopper behavior trends in Grocery and Convenience store channels, or for custom in-store research and testing in any channel.

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